Georges St-Pierre has claimed that the UFC persisted with Khabib Nurmagomedov in an attempt to convince him to return as "they don't want to see him leave on his own terms."
St-Pierre has poured cold water on Dana White's suggestion that he wanted Nurmagomedov (29-0) to fight at least one more time because he wanted him to get to 30-0. Instead, the Canadian has suggested that the reason the UFC President persisted with Nurmagomedov is because that they don't want him to leave on his own terms and on top.
"From a business standpoint, for sure, the UFC does not like one of their athletes to leave on their own terms – especially when they are champions. They like to keep the ball rolling in the organization and that’s one of the things they were angry at me [about]. I’ve done this two times. But I think they attach too much importance to that. If you look at boxing, the way they promote the sport, it would be, for example, ‘Mayweather vs. Canelo,’ and then after you know what they’re fighting for," St-Pierre said to Ariel Helwani on ESPN's MMA Show (h/t RT Sport). "But in the UFC, the way they promote it is 'UFC 259'. That’s the UFC, they promote the UFC, then you have the two guys. So it’s just a different way they promote the sport. I think the promotion should be more centered on the athlete than the promotion because there’s all kinds of titles. The title is just a meaning. Even if you’re champion, doesn’t mean that people think that you are the best in the world if you are champion. You can be champion but you haven’t fought the best guy. People are not stupid. People know that."
St-Pierre was one of the names to have been linked with "The Eagle" as a potential fight that would convince him to return, especially as he was Nurmagomedov's late father Abdulmanap's dream opponent for his son. St-Pierre has twice retired on top, initially after UFC 167 when he edged past Johnny Hendricks in a split decision (47–48, 48–47, and 48–47) and then after dethroning Michael Bisping at UFC 217 and becoming the middleweight champion. And St-Pierre has respect for Nurmagomedov's ability to resist the urge to return if he is officially done.
"For that reason, I believe they want to keep Khabib in because they feel like Khabib is undefeated," he said. "He has probably the most dominant career ever. I don’t even know if he lost a round. He might have lost a round but he dominated all his opponents. They don’t want him to leave on his terms, they want a guy to beat him. Then after, they are going to say, 'OK, now you can leave.' But Khabib is smart, I think he’s very smart. He left on top, and there’s nothing wrong with that."